[Marxism] From an interview with Vivek Chibber's bête noire

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat May 11 14:14:51 MDT 2013

 From an interview with Ranajit Guha by Milinda Banerjee in 2010. The 
full interview is here: 

MB: Have you always been so ideologically churned by Tagore and by 
Bengali literary culture, or is it something which has become important 
in your mature years?

RG: I had engaged with these in my youth as well, though these issues 
then were not so apparently visible. Rather, what I felt more explicitly 
was my passion for social justice for the poor, and Marxism was 
therefore attractive. Coming from a khas taluqdar [a class of landlords 
who were technically not zamindars, but who, like zamindars, paid 
revenue directly to the State in colonial Bengal] family of Barisal in 
East Bengal, I had witnessed the structure of zamindar-praja [the 
Permanent Settlement of 1793 bestowed property rights on land in Bengal 
to a class of people termed the zamindars. Below the zamindars were 
their ‘prajas’ or‘subjects’ who cultivated their land and paid them 
rent] relations in rural society, which left a profound impression on 
me. In my student days at Presidency College, Calcutta, I became a 
Marxist, and a member of the Communist Party. In the late 1940s, I spent 
a considerable part of time in Europe involved in Communist Party work. 
However, I also gradually started getting alienated from doctrinaire 
Communist Party Marxism. Experiences of the USSR’s handling of the 
political situation in Eastern Europe, disenchantment with the Communist 
Party of India’s internal factional squabbles for power, and finally the 
Soviet invasion of Hungary, made me decide to leave the Communist Party. 
Later, I became something of a Naxalite intellectual. I still consider 
myself to have been inspired by Charu Mazumdar’s ideas which, I think, 
contain a lot of validity. But Charu Mazumdar [The foremost intellectual 
and political leader of the ‘ultra-left’ Naxalite movement which erupted 
in West Bengal in the late 1960s, spread to the rest of the India, and 
continues to be the founding moment of the Maoist peasant insurgency of 
the present day] and his followers were weak in organizational 
capability, which resulted in the movement being crushed. I have 
elsewhere condemned the role of some intellectuals in Indira Gandhi’s 
period who supported her moves to crush the revolt and praised many of 
her activities, for instance, the running of trains on time during the 

The doctrinaire Marxism of the Indian Communist Party was poor in 
appreciation of real Marxist philosophy. They had a very simplistic 
understanding of Marxism and most of them had not read the original 
books. The disenchantment with this doctrinaire Marxism provoked me to 
explore the philosophical complexities of Marx, which in turn led me to 
Hegel. Hegel has tremendously inspired me.

[Maybe Guha should be read out of the Marxist movement for hailing 
Hegel, but then again Lenin studied Hegel at the outbreak of WWI to 
figure out what went wrong in the social democracy. But we can’t have 
that, can we?]

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